Tag Archives: Lenore Broughton

Into a Conservative Cul-de-Sac and Out Again

We all know that the world of Vermont conservative politics is a small one. Recently, I was doing some campaign finance research when I came across an example of exactly how small a world it really is.

The object of my research was far-right megadonor Lenore Broughton. I’m tracking her state and federal campaign contributions for an upcoming post.

Most of Broughton’s activity is on the federal level, and she supports exactly the kind of politicians you’d expect: Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Ron Johnson, etc. But that’s a tale for another day. On the state level in the 2020 election cycle and the 2022 cycle (so far), she’s made four separate donations.

She gave $5,000 to the Vermont Republican State Committee. She gave $500 to the Rutland County Republican Committee. And she cut two checks totaling $8,050 to something called Right for Vermont.

This is where we turn into the cul-de-sac. It’ll be a short but entertaining ride.

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The Unlikeliest Superhero

When Jeb Spaulding became newly-elected governor Peter Shumlin’s top cabinet official in January 2011, his little-known deputy was chosen to serve out the remainder of his term.

That deputy went on to become, arguably, the most popular officeholder in the Vermont Democratic Party. She routinely got loud, sustained ovations at VDP gatherings, and was at the top of many Democrats’ wish lists as a candidate for governor. But she had no interest in being anything other than Treasurer.

And now Beth Pearce has announced her retirement as Treasurer at the end of her term, when she will have served 12 years in the office.

First and foremost, all the luck in the world to Pearce as she battles cancer. Having watched Pearce in action, I have to say cancer has no idea what it’s in for.

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For Nolan, It’s Bad News All the Way Down

Christina Nolan’s longshot bid for U.S. Senate got quite a bit longer last week, with the filing of first-quarter campaign finance reports. For starters, as expected, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch did what he’s always done — fundraise the hell out of his opposition. He pulled in $839,000 and spent roughly half of that, bringing his total warchest to a daunting $2.96 million.

Nolan? She received $157,000 in donations and spent about one-third of that, leaving her a smidge over $100K in cash on hand.

Sort of.

Thirteen of Nolan’s donors gave the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. Eight of those 13 also gave an additional $2,900, which must be reserved for the general election. That adds up to $37,700. One other person gave $5,000, of which $2,100 must be spent on the general. So her effective cash on hand — money she can spend between now and August 11 — is only $61,747. Which means that right now, today, Welch’s kitty is effectively an astounding forty-eight times as large as Nolan’s.

Ouch. Double ouch with nuts. I was going to make a David v. Goliath reference, but this is more like Bambi v. Godzilla. If this race wasn’t done and dusted already (hint: it was), these filings remove any remaining whispers of doubt.

But wait, there’s more! Bad news, that is.

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The VTGOP’s Little Oligarchs

I’ve written before of the delicate high-wire act between moderates and far-righters that VTGOP chair Paul Dame is perfectly unsuited to carry out. He’s got to try to encompass the Phil Scott camp and all the ultraconservatives who litter the party apparatus.

Turns out, he also has to play nice with a coterie of big donors ($1,000 or more apiece) who are keeping the party above water, and most of them tilt strongly rightward.

The VTGOP has had fundraising trouble since I started tracking #vtpoli back in 2011. They still do. A check of the party’s FEC filings shows that, from January 2021 through February 2022, total party fundraising added up to $94,081. They got another $14,350 from the Republican National Committee, bringing total takings to $108,431.

That’s less than $10,000 a month, even with the RNC’s pity money.

Compare that to the Vermont Democratic Party, which raised almost $300,000 from individual donors in the same period — at a time when the party was seriously disorganized and suffering frequent turnover among leadership and staff. But that’s just the beginning; the VDP took in another 300K from other organizations. Almost two-thirds of that came from the Democratic National Committee. Most of the rest came from Democratic politicians’ campaign funds and members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation as well as a couple of big labor unions and, for some reason, $500 apiece from sports-gambling giants FanDuel and DraftKings.

Add it all up, and it’s more than $600,000 in the same period when the VTGOP barely cleared $100,000.

So the VTGOP is scrambling for any dollar it can find. And of its fundraising total, $42,670 — more than 45% — came from big-dollar donors. Well, big-dollar by Vermont standards anyway. But clearly, they make up enough of the VTGOP’s donor base that they have to be catered to. Now, let’s look at who they are.

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The Moral Panic Merchant

Has my old frenemy Bradford Broyles become a pillar of purity? Or does he simply see a marketing opportunity in fanning the flames of hate? It’s hard to tell, but my bet’s on the latter. Either way, he’s jumped with both feet onto the book-banning bandwagon, hectoring a Vermont high school for including a transgender person’s memoir on its library shelves.

Oh, you need some background? Broyles is a wannabe Hollywood producer of tediously unfunny right-wing “comedy” in partnership with Len (billed as “Lenny” because comedy?) Britton, former ski resort operator and very unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010. (Pat Leahy spanked him by a better than two-to-one margin.)

Brad and Lenny are best known around these parts for producing “News Done Right,” a series of short videos critical of Vermont’s left, Phil Scott included. The “stars” of NDR were a couple of aspiring actors willing to don flannel shirts and pretend, not convincingly, to be Vermonters.

Last I heard, Broyles and Britton were flogging a sitcom starring Kevin Sorbo, the guy who played Hercules for five years on the teevee and went on to became a QAnon-style conspiratorialist. Sorbo plays a politically incorrect (read: asshole) suburban dad in “The World According to Billy Potwin.” A handful of episodes have been produced; somehow, it has yet to be picked up by any major media outlet. (You can find clips and a whole episode on YouTube if you’re a glutton for punishment.)

Lately, Broyles has been making waves, or should I say ripples, here in Vermont. Last summer he was the campaign manager for Republican Burlington City Council candidate Christopher-Aaron Felker. I don’t know why Brad bothered; Felker was a sure loser in a Prog-heavy ward even before his history of transphobic remarks on social media was uncovered. Afterward? Well, he finished with 14% of the vote. (And he is now, because desperate times call for desperate measures, the chair of the Burlington GOP.)

Broyles’ latest caper involves sending a letter sent to the Essex-Westford School Board (and sharing it for publicity purposes with Vermont Daily Carbuncle), decrying the inclusion of “Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe about Kobabe’s search for gender identity, in the high school library. (The story was picked up by, you guessed it, John Klar on True North Reports.)

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A Republican Lawmaker Hops On Board the Klar Klan Kruiser

The wonderful folks who brought you the CovidCruiser bus to the January 6 insurrection are back in business, baby! Now it’s the KKK Traveling Road Show, featuring a select group of speakers who are convinced that Critical Race Theory is the worst thing since, I dunno, Sputnik?

No, Burisma. Let’s go with Burisma.

The Klar Klan Kruiser is the brainchild of Gregory Thayer, a Rutland accountant and QAnon-adjacent conspiratorialist. It’s making stops tonight (Wednesday 7/14) in Barre and Friday in St. Albans. In each venue, a series of speakers will rant and rave about CRT for what’s likely to be a small audience of like-minded folks.

So who’s on the guest list for tonight? Well, Thayer himself, former gubernatorial candidate John Klar, Our Lady of the CovidCruiser Ellie Martin, “Former Educators” Martha Hafner and Alice Flanders, and first-term Rep. Samantha Lefebvre (R-Orange).

The latter is the subject of this post.

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I’m sure David Zuckerman is shaking in his boots

Hey, everybody! Meet Meg Hansen, writer, consultant, low-budget TV show host, and now a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hansen is a bright young woman with a compelling backstory who you might recall as a communications staffer for the Vermont House Republican caucus in 2016-17. After that, she spent about a year as head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, the right-wing advocacy group that’s had no discernible influence on the health care debate. Otherwise, Hansen’s public activities are largely confined to the off-hours of community access television.

She is a devout conservative who believes in the power of unfettered capitalism to float everybody’s boat. Her vision would remake Vermont along the lines of America’s reddest states.

“The American Dream is alive and well in states like Texas and North Carolina but not in Vermont,” she writes on her campaign website. At the risk of being churlish, I’d ask if she sees the American Dream doing well in states like Mississippi and Kansas, which have low taxes and little regulation but are economically stagnant.

She’s opposed to Obamacare and other health care reform efforts; her solution is to let the free market do its magic — giving all Vermonters the chance to buy overpriced, crappy, exception-laden insurance policies. She’s not a fan of fighting climate change or climate activists, who “use the specter of climate catastrophe to demonize us as polluters-parasites on earth,” and whose proposed solutions are “immoral.”

She also favors the “freedom to vape,” which, okay then.

You get the idea. It’s precisely the kind of hard-core conservative platform that’s been a consistent, lopsided loser in Vermont.

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Free advice for the last people on Earth who would take it

So, over at journalismjobs.com there’s an intriguing listing from my former employer:

Award-winning, locally owned Seven Days newspaper is on the hunt for a political columnist or a news reporter to join our state government team.

That’s either/or. They’re going to hire one or the other. Which means they haven’t made up their minds whether they’re keeping “Fair Game.” It’ll depend, one must assume, on the inclination of the best applicants.

Before I begin the uninformed speculation and free advice, let me make one thing clear. I have no inside information. At this point, I have less insight into the inner workings of Seven Days than I do for True North Reports, the ha-ha “news” site bankrolled by reclusive moneybags Lenore Broughton.

When I got the ziggy, I didn’t know whether they intended to keep the column going or kill it. In recent years, Seven Days has sought to distance itself from its hippie-dippie alt roots. Maybe the Peter Freyne Memorial Chair no longer fit in with the highfalutin aspirations of Vermont’s largest organ.

On the other hand, it’s tough to imagine a Seven Days without “Fair Game.” Back in the bad old days, Peter Freyne was their only news guy, to use the term very loosely. The column has been a staple of the paper since practically day one.

Also, at this point it occupies a singular place in Vermont’s news ecosystem. There are no other political columnists, besides the part-time ruminations of VTDigger’s Jon Margolis. “Fair Game” remains incredibly popular — a must-read for anyone in Vermont politics or news media. That’s a lot of legacy and pageviews to surrender. Also, Vermont politics needs a good shitkicker. It’s far too comfortable a space right now.

But if they’re going to keep “Fair Game,” they need to make some decisions about what exactly it is and what their expectations are. Otherwise it’s not fair to the new hire. It sure wasn’t fair to me.

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Conservative megadonor casts doubt on ballot security

Lenore Broughton is a generous supporter of conservative politicians. But she’s an intensely private person. She hates having her picture taken, and she usually lets her money do the talking in the political arena.

On Friday afternoon, she stepped out of the shadows for the first time — ironically, to do something that’s pretty damn shady.

She sent a letter to all the town clerks in Vermont warning that the state’s election might be hacked. Or, as she put it, she was warning of “the surprisingly (sic) ease with which the AccuVote-OS optical scanners can be hacked resulting in the switching of votes.”

Her alarm springs from an article posted by Vermont’s most biased news source, Vermont Watchdog. The story was written in mid-September, and was immediately and thoroughly debunked by Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Perhaps Broughton doubts the representations of our Democratic, but scrupulously fair, Secretary of State. After all, Secretaries of State affiliated with her favorite party are often guilty of electoral shenanigans. The VTGOP has frequently made accusations against Condos or his functionaries, but none have ever panned out.

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What if Phil Scott loses?

In my second-most-recent post, I listed all the bad news visited upon Vermont Republicans over the past few days. I ended by asking “What if Phil Scott loses?”

I’ll get to that question, but in the meantime, WCAX released its own poll showing Scott with a seven-point lead over Sue Minter, which has triggered much rejoicing Chez Phil.

In his lede, WCAX’s usually reliable Kyle Midura made an unwarranted inference: since the VPR Poll had shown a statistical dead heat, the TV poll shows that Scott is “pulling ahead.”

Which, c’mon now. These are two polls from different organizations with possibly differing methodologies. (We don’t know because WCAX hasn’t released any details. VPR has disclosed all of that.) Drawing that direct a line between the two polls is misleading at best.

What we have are two data points. One (VPR) from an in-state academic polling outfit, one (WCAX) from a New Jersey-based for-profit firm.

Pollster Paul Braun engaged in some speculation that ought to unnerve those placing a lot of weight on his survey. He credited the WCAX gubernatorial debate for driving Scott’s alleged momentum — when, in fact, debate audiences tend to be very small, and the impact of debates on public opinion is also small. (Unless you pull a Trump, of course.) There is no evidence to support Braun’s assertion.

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